Yesterday while running at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, I glanced down to see a simple sign staked in the ground. It said, “Please stay on the garden path.”
The Arb, as many people call it, largely welcomes runners and cyclists to use its roads for training. There’s even a Champion of Trees 10K race going on in April. That will be a challenging course. The Arb has some wicked hills on its grounds.
It also has soft trails that wind their way through the woods and fields. Runners and cyclists are not allowed on those trails. That’s a good policy in my opinion. The largest percentage of people who visit The Arb are not endurance athletes. They’re folks seeking peace and solace in a somewhat natural environment.
I say “somewhat” because much of The Arboretum is essentially a tree garden. There are plants from all over the world growing there. The park is therefore a combination of native plant communities and carefully tended trees and shrubs from around the globe.
The asphalt roads make a loop of 7.5 miles total. One young woman to whom I spoke had just completed a 16-mile run. Traffic typically moves slowly on those roads, so it’s much safer than running on public streets.
The Arb deserves credit for being open-minded enough to encourage runners to use the property. They also deserve credit for reserving walking trails for that approach to a natural encounter. There is nothing so jarring as walking along in peace when a runner or cyclist comes huffing along and charging by. I wholeheartedly support separation of the two interests.
It might be nice if Morton built a perimeter running trail out of soft surface materials. There are some nice hills and runners could move along at a brisker pace without pounding their legs to bits on the roads.
But all told, we’re grateful to be able to run there at all. Our job as endurance athletes is actually to stay off the Garden Path. That’s both a literal and symbolic statement in many ways. But we’ll see you out there one way or another.